The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, is to attend a specially
convened European Union meeting in Paris on Tuesday evening to discuss
Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Mr Schwarzenberg is
planning to listen to the views of other countries rather than advancing a
Czech position, which – given that the Czech Republic assumes the
presidency of the EU on Thursday – could be misconstrued as the official
position of the EU, a Czech Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. Finding a
common EU position on the Middle East conflict is one of the tasks facing
the Czech presidency. Prague is planning to host an EU-Israel conference
the first half of 2009, while an EU-Palestine summit is also a
the Czech News Agency reported.
At the weekend Minister Schwarzenberg defended Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. He also expressed regrets over the poor living conditions which led young people in Gaza to join radical organisations, and called for the resumption of a cease-fire.
The Czech ambassador to the EU has described the attitude of the French during their presidency as “sometimes excessively dominant”. Milena Vicenová told the Czech News Agency that French officials had occasionally used the tactic of submitting documents at the very last minute and only in French. However, she said she rated the French presidency generally positively, pointing out its success in bringing EU states to an agreement on a climate-energy package, and praising French officials’ “perfect use of time”. Ms Vicenova, who will be one of the major figures of the Czech presidency, said it could be difficult in some respects to follow an experienced player who has helmed the EU 12 times. Nevertheless, she said the Czech EU presidency could make a pleasant change.
Meanwhile, half of the country’s entrepreneurs believe they will spend the whole of next year dealing with the effects of the global financial crisis – which they think will carry over into 2010. That is according to a poll carried out by the Economic Chamber of the Czech Republic before Christmas. Almost two-thirds of the firms surveyed said 2008 had been a successful year, although most said they were already feeling the impact of the credit crunch in the final quarter.
Vlastimil Košťál has resigned as deputy chairman of the Czech football association, the website tyden.cz reported. Mr Košťál has a long association with Sparta Prague and was until last summer the business manager of the Czech national team. He is one is one of the most powerful – but also most unpopular – people in Czech football. In a letter of resignation Mr Košťál said he was quitting for personal reasons.
The Interior Ministry has announced the final list of 12 countries whose citizens can apply for a green card to work in the Czech Republic. The number of countries is smaller than was originally envisaged, due to the global financial crisis and an expected fall in demand for low-paid workers from abroad. The countries concerned include Ukraine and all states of the former Yugoslavia with the exception of Kosovo. The Vietnamese, who make up one of the largest ethnic minorities in the Czech Republic, are also not included. Foreigners in the Czech Republic can currently only seek jobs that are not filled within 30 days with applicants from the Czech Republic or another EU country.
The Czech National Bank admits there could be a greater economic slowdown next year than previously forecast, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported, citing the bank’s governor Zdeněk Tůma. The most recent forecast of the Czech National Bank estimated a growth of 2.9 percent; now it says Czech GDP may only grow by 0.5 percent in 2009. Zdeněk Tůma says the change is caused by the global downturn, which is sharper than it was expected at the time the forecast was drafted.
The Czech mission to the United Nations in New York is ready to take over the duties of the European presidency on January 1, ambassador Martin Palouš has told the Czech News Agency. He said the Czech mission would be responsible for all activities carried out within the European Union in the first six months of next year. The first meeting Mr Palouš will preside is a regular meeting of the 27 ambassadors of EU member states. The Czech mission has recently increased its personnel to around 50 people.
As of January 1, drivers registering used cars will pay an environmental fee of up to 10,000 crowns. The new fee will concern some 2.5 million cars, which is more than half of all passenger cars in the Czech Republic. More than a third of all cars in the country, nearly 1.5 million vehicles, are older than 15 years and therefore they don’t meet any of the Euro emission standards. Owners of these cars will have to pay a fee of 10,000 crowns at the next registration after January 1, an amount that often exceeds the price of the vehicle itself. The registration authorities have been bursting at the seams before the end of the year, with people trying to sell their cars or cancel their registration at the last moment.